Substitute Teacher's Racism And Ignorance Gets 11-Year-Old Arrested Over Pledge Dispute
Credit: Flickr
February 18, 2019

You read that right, although at this stage, people shouldn't be surprised. An 11-year-old boy was arrested after a student teacher violated his rights and by her own admission, and in her own words, "did not want to continue dealing with him."

The substitute teacher, Ana Alvarez, told the 6th-grader at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, and he refused. He said the American flag was racist. Listen to her own damn version of events:

“Why if it was so bad here he did not go to another place to live,” she reportedly told him, and the boy responded, “They brought me here.”

She said, “Well you can always go back, because I came here from Cuba and the day I feel I’m not welcome here anymore I would find another place to live.” She added, “Then I had to call the office because I did not want to continue dealing with him.”

Can we pause for a moment to consider this? An adult asking an 11-year-old child why he didn't go live in a different country? As if that child has any control whatsoever over where he lives? As if a child from a Black family even necessarily knows from which country they were stolen? As if moving to another country is just something one does when one is unhappy with that country's policies? AS IF ANY GROWN PERSON WOULD RATIONALLY SUGGEST THIS TO A CHILD? Her experience having come to the U.S. from Cuba, possibly even fleeing a completely oppressive regime, is completely immaterial to the fact that Black people were brought here against their will, and are STILL fighting for equal treatment in society and under the law.

As usual, I'll defer to The Root to say this better than I ever could.

Shoutout to his substitute teacher for handling that situation completely wrong. Because if you want to dip, more power to you. But never tell a black person—whose ancestors built “the best country in the world” for free.99—to “go back” as a consequence for addressing equitable treatment. That’s not how this shit works.

At this point, what recourse did this child have, other than to either accept abuse or refuse it? He refused. She, IN HER OWN WORDS, didn't want to deal with him. She called in administrators, who called police, and he was taken to a juvenile detention center and charged with a misdemeanor — "disruption of a school facility and resisting an officer without violence."

The school district said Ms. Alvarez is no longer allowed to teach in their schools, and that it's working with the agency from which it gets its substitutes "to further refine" how they're trained. That's one step towards the right result, and all, but the rest should involve dropping the charges against the student, and dropping the 3-day suspension he received for the incident. The fact is once administrators got involved, they should have informed the teacher that she was wrong about telling him to stand for the pledge, and the child should have been assured his rights would be protected and he was safe.

Shouldn't they have been aware of the 1943 Supreme Court decision in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, which held that the First Amendment protects students from being forced to salute the flag or recite the Pledge? If they didn't know that, shouldn't they have known that their own district's policy is that students are not compelled to recite the pledge? And if they DID know either or both of those things, doesn't their treatment of that student demonstrate they were motivated from a place of racism? That, indeed, the child was right to protest the recitation of the Pledge? That the flag and everything it represents is racist?

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